Tuesday, July 31, 2018

3 Absolutely Unassailable Laws of Leadership

Proverbs 18 includes great advice for anyone who is trying to lead or influence people. Of course, everything in the Bible is really good advice for anyone trying to do anything. So, whether you are a leader or just someone who wants to be more wise (particularly in relationships), here are my three key lessons from Proverbs 18. I've included some of the specific proverbs so you can munch on them today:

1) Everything doesn't rise and fall on you; you are a part of a bigger whole.
  • Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.
  • A brother offended is more unyielding than a strong city, and quarreling is like the bars of a castle.
  • A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
2) The most inspiring speeches are meaningless if they aren't preceded by big ears.
  • A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion
  • If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.
  • The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.
3) Constantly attempting to cultivate favor influential people is a quick fix with devastating results
  • It is not good to be partial to the wicked or to deprive the righteous of justice.
  • The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Thursday 13: Lessons We Can Learn From Suffering

It's Thursday again. And 13 is still my favorite number. So here's another edition of 13 for Thursday.

SUFFERING...


1. reveals our true identity

2. allows us to focus on our priorities

3. teaches us to rely on God and others

4. strengthens our resolve

5. proves our faith

6. develops our ability to persevere

7. teaches us what is truly important

8. enables us to be more in tune with the Holy Spirit

9. builds our strength

10. gives us a taste of the cost Jesus paid for our salvation

11. identifies our true loyalties

12. reminds us of the effects of our sins

13. fosters patience in our lives

Thursday, July 19, 2018

13 For Thursday: Thirteen Lessons from the Book of Philemon

I originally wrote this 10 years ago. And since it's Thursday, it seems right to post a "Thirteen for Thursday" just for old-times sake. Philemon is one of the shortest books in the Bible yet it is overflowing with great lessons. Take a minute to read the book and see if you can glean some other lessons. Here's my 13:

1. Church ministry is team-oriented, not individual-centric. (vs. 1-2)
2. Our prayers should be laced with thanksgiving for others (vs.4)
3. Love should be the identifying characteristic of all our relationships within the church. (vs.5 and more)
4. As believers, our lives should be refreshing to other believers (vs.7)
5. Love chooses not to take advantage of an authoritative position (vs.9)
6. Spiritual children are evidence of a missional life (vs.10)
7. Faith in Christ revolutionarily changes our lives (vs.11)
8. God is in control of every situation (vs.15)
9. In Christ, there is neither slave nor free... (vs.16)
10. We are all partners in ministry (vs. 17)
11. Forgiveness is necessary for love to flourish (vs.18)
12. Even if it means sacrificing, we should be catalysts of forgiveness between other parties (vs.19)
13. As much as you can, always give credit to others (vs.23-24)

Monday, July 16, 2018

Don't Be Defined By Your Past

Whichever translation of the Bible you use, Ephesians 2 begins the same way. It is a description of "you" (it's actually the Ephesians, but it applies to you). The different versions use different words, but they all have the same meaning:

NIV - "As for you, you were"
NLT - "Once you were"
ESV - "And you were"
NASB - "And you were"

The opening thought is about the life you once lived, your past. The picture Paul paints of the past isn't pretty, he says we were dead in sins.

Verse four is the exact opposite. Paul takes his eyes off us and puts them where they ought to be, on God"

NIV - "But... God, who is..."
NLT - "But God is..."
ESV - "But God, being..."
NASB - "But God, being..."

The contrast is between how we acted (dead) and who God is (merciful). The lesson is obvious. No matter what evil exists in your past, God's mercy extends to it. No matter how much wrong you may have done, God's love covers it. No matter how much blame you place on yourself, God is bigger.

Today, take a minute and remind yourself of this powerful truth:

What I've done before
Is not who I am anymore
Not because of my good deeds
But because of who God is!

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Rescued For Free -- But At How Great A Cost?

Have you been paying attention to the soccer team and their coach who are stranded in a cave in Thailand? As of this morning, almost all of them have been rescued and everyone is hopeful that the last two will be saved soon. This rescue operation has been incredible to witness as hundreds of people from many different countries have bonded together to find and retrieve this group of young men. 
Professional divers are swimming through caves (sometimes so tight the have to remove their equipment and pull it behind them) for 4-6 hours just to reach the boys. One-by-one the boys are being carried out in a return journey which takes as much as 9 hours! I have no idea how expensive the entire effort has been, but I know there has been great cost.
Consider the price for the hi-tech equipment, the diver's equipment, the vehicles, the vehicles, the communication devices and whatever other items might be used. In addition, the full amount of time being spent by professional divers, soldiers, volunteers and others will likely never be known. The greatest cost to this point has been the life of one rescuer, who ran out of oxygen because he wanted to be sure the boys had enough.
No expense has been spared to accomplish for these boys what they could never accomplish for themselves. Every one of these boys has been carried from death to life at a cost they could never afford. And they will never be asked to repay their debt, this is a gift which has been freely given. Imagine how grateful these boys and their families will be for the rest of their lives!
How much greater is the free gift we have been given? We've not been saved from a cave or physical death, but we have been saved from our own sin and eternal death! How grateful should we be? How should that gratitude overflow into every area of our life?
Ephesians 1:6 - to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Give Me Jesus...

We just wrapped up week 2 of a new Ephesians series at The Gathering. During this series, I've been sending a couple emails out each week with some devotional thoughts on the passages we are studying. If you'd like to receive these emails, click here to sign up.

Here are my thoughts from today:

In the first 14 verses of Ephesians, Paul wrote the phrase "in Christ" (or something similar) at least 12 different times. Every time I read through these verses, I am impressed at how important Jesus was to Paul.

I want Jesus to be that important to me. I want to understand every part of my life through the filter of Christ. I want my actions, my thoughts, my plans, my hopes, my hurts, my expectations, etc. to be wrapped up in Jesus.

I am reminded of some of the words from a Jeremy Camp song:
In the morning, when I riseGive me Jesus.You can have all this world,Just give me Jesus.
I'm also reminded of an ancient Irish song/poem known as St. Patrick's Breastplate. It's a great anthem by which to live one's life:
Christ with me,Christ before me,Christ behind me,Christ in me,Christ beneath me,Christ above me,Christ on my right,Christ on my left,Christ when I lie down,Christ when I sit down,Christ when I arise,Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,Christ in every eye that sees me,Christ in every ear that hears me.
Praise be to the Great I Am!

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Changing Diapers and God's Grace

*I wrote this many years ago (Liam will turn 19 this month). I came across it while doing some personal study on the topic of grace. The sentiments are still true.

Grace is like changing diapers. No matter how often it happens, or how bad the mess is, I still change Liam's diapers. This, in spite of the fact that he has done nothing to earn it.

The reason is because I look on him with favor.

God's grace can be defined as his unmerited favor toward us. Being a recipient of grace (through Christ) means that God looks on me with favor, regardless of what I do.

Liam's worst diaper cannot begin to compare to the stench of my sin before God. Yet, he continues to look on me with favor. He provides for me. He guides me. He has a future for me. None of this is merited, but it is all given me because I am in Christ.